The record may be bad (2-9) for the Western Kentucky football Hilltoppers, but the news is good for Coach Dave Elson and his players.
WKU Athletic Director Wood Selig has cast his support behind Elson, according to the Daily News in Bowling Green.
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"If anyone wants to put blame, start with me," Selig said on Tuesday. "I signed the contracts (for a game against top-ranked Alabama among others) ... you're never going to see another schedule like that."
Selig overscheduled Western, which is completing its second and final year of transition to the Bowl Subdivision from the Championship Subdivision. The Toppers will play a full Sun Belt Conference schedule next fall and a more reasonable non-league schedule.
Western has tied the school record of nine losses with one game to play. It is Elson's first losing season in six years as head coach.
In his most emphatic statement in the article, Selig said, "(Elson) does not need to doubt for a minute — nor do those on his staff or our student-athletes — that we aren't totally behind what they're doing and how they're doing it. Because we are."
What they're thankful for
With Thanksgiving drawing near, plenty of teams and athletes have much for which to give thanks.
■ Lindsey Wilson's men's and women's soccer teams are entering the NAIA playoffs as the Mid-South Conference's season and tournament champions. They now play in the Walter S. Reuling Soccer Stadium, named after the school's former president who cared deeply about "the beautiful game."
"I used to joke with him that the 'S' in his name stood for soccer," men's coach Ray Wells said. First-round games are Saturday.
■ Weber State of the Big Sky Conference was the first team to receive an automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The Wildcats are coached by former Kentucky assistant Ron McBride (2003-04). He recently received a new four-year contract.
■ The Mid-South Conference has four of the 16 teams in the NAIA football playoffs: Cumberlands, Union, Shorter and Lambuth.
■ The Eastern Kentucky men's golf team had a sterling fall season. The Colonels were first twice, second twice and third once in five fall events. Senior Trey Bowling had three top-10 finishes, including one victory. He is tied for seventh in NCAA Division I in subpar strokes a round, and the Colonels are ranked 64th by www.golfstat.com. Bowling became the second Colonel in a row to earn Kentucky Golf Association Player of the Year honors. Phil Hendrickson won in 2007.
■ Centre sophomore Chris Morris was the top Division III golfer, according to Golfstat. He won five of seven events and averaged 70 strokes a round, including a school-record 64. Freshman Emily Bachert was No. 2 in the women's division. She won two events.
■ Marshall senior Kellie Schmitt won her fourth career Conference USA Tennis Player of the Month honor.
■ Transylvania's women's golf team won its first Heartland Conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA championships in May. Janca Millett was named Freshman of the Year, and Mark Turner was chosen the top coach.
■ Lindsey Wilson junior golfer Krista Burton captured four individual championships and her school-record 13th title. The Blue Raiders won three of four team tournaments during the fall.
■ Transylvania's Kelsey Fulkerson was the Heartland's Freshman of the Year in women's tennis. The Paul Dunbar High School graduate had a 13-3 record at No. 1 singles and doubles.
■ Senior captain Rebecca Rube became the all-time leading scorer in Cumberlands' women's soccer this season. She finished with 18 goals this fall and 56 for her career. Leslie Allred had the record with 48 goals.
■ Eastern Kentucky's Kayla Drake was the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week in women's basketball. After her debut with 14 points, Drake scored 33 in EKU's 71-61 victory at Chicago State on Sunday. Eastern has 10 scholarship players and no returning starters in Chrissy Roberts' first year as coach. EKU was 2-0 entering Wednesday night's game at Vanderbilt.
■ Freshman Colin Rolfe became the first player in Louisville history to earn a major Big East men's soccer award when he captured Rookie of the Year honors.
■ U of L's Pam Bustin was named Big East Coach of the Year for field hockey. Her team shared the regular-season title for a third consecutive year. The 13th-ranked Cardinals lost to No. 6 Iowa in the NCAA Regional last weekend.
■ Eastern's cheerleading team and mascot have qualified for the 2009 national championships Jan. 16-18 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Rick Bailey covers state colleges and Marshall for the Herald-Leader. This article contains his opinions and observations. Reach him at (859) 231-3336, (800) 950-6397, Ext. 3336, or firstname.lastname@example.org.